I have now watched the second half again and have a better picture of how Arsenal turned things round.
First and for all, we needed a break and we got it on our own merit: two forward passes, first by Granit and then by his fellow midfielder Torreira, and a good run and coolly executed low to ground cross by Kola found Martinelli, who took the opportunity like a 28 year old striker in his prime. Boom 1-0. To be fair it came out of nowhere, but it cannot be called a lucky break. The Hammers were getting tired and we used the available space really well.. and Martinelli is a fearless and ambitious Gem alright!
Freddie after the game (BBC):
“In the first half we were slow and lethargic, we didn’t move or run, and that comes from low confidence but in the second half it was how we wanted to play.
“I hope this changes the mood and the players looked happy in the dressing room. It’s been tough for them, they have been living under enormous pressure and you see it in their performances.”
After that, we just did not look back. Our confidence was back, hallelujah! We kept it tight at the back and all of a sudden our players started the pass the ball around with speed, precision and attacking intent. Our attackers came much closer to the midfield and now Xhaka and Torreira had much better passing opportunities. And guess what, they both started to pass much, much better. Mesut was constantly available and keen to drive forward; Martinelli, Pepe and Auba moved all over the pitch and often close to the midfield to make themselves available. That made all the difference.
As a team, and this is something Emery has created and is not easy to shift, we don’t play tight enough; we are a team of three units with our attackers too disconnected from midfield, which leaves the latter which so much to do. No wonder we struggled in recent months, but once we had our goal this changed. We need to play as a dense, compact unit, a snickers bar, and not as a stretched out curly-wurly positioned all over the pitch. That is the only way to create better passing opportunities and be less vulnerable to breaks. Defend as a unit, boss the midfield as a unit, create chances a unit.
Regarding the defence, as per previous post, we did much better than in recent games. Both Sok and Chambers bossed the box in the air and Xhaka and Torreira did not allow much space in front of our ‘D’. Our full backs were tight and did not allow many crosses into the box; and our wingers supported our defence throughout the game. That was good to see.
My final point, and invite you to give us your views, is regarding the hardest part for all of us to witness: us playing out of the back. This can only work if we have enough passing opportunities (and for this we need to play much more compact). Both Sok and Chambers are limited passers, Xhaka and Torreira are not great in dribbling themselves free with the ball, which is sometimes required, and we need to dare to pass in between the lines rather than sideways or back most of the time. We need to play our Wengeresque triangles again – where are they?!
It clearly is not working and especially against the blue Mancs on Sunday we need to avoid it at all cost. I wished we kept Giroud so we have a decent GK to Forward option, but kicking it into a dense midfield may be our best way of avoiding the blood-pressure-raising, suicidal building the game up from the back, going forward.
This was a much needed and good win but lessons will have to be taken from this and applied rigorously going forward. Stick with these players and tweak the tactics, Freddie. You can do it.